11:22, Tuesday 27 Jan., 2015

Dan Hon commented: The thing - ha - about the internet-of-things is that it's a weird descriptor.

from a consumer point of view, for most things, why would it have wifi if it couldn't be connected, in some way, to the internet? Which is sort of the position that all of this IoT business is a temporary blip and that instead you'll just be looking for "doorbells" or "lightbulbs" or "locks" and you won't really get a choice about whether they "come with internet" or not.

I'll go with that. The internet won't stay trapped behind glass. -- That was a useful encapsulation to explain what we were doing with Berg Cloud.

Of course lightbulbs should be networked. But my hunch is that - with connectivity - we'll find new products that means that we no longer focus on light bulbs per se. Maybe connectivity will mean that we'll buy "lighting," verbs not nouns.

I guess the scale of the difference I mean is like software. Which, when networked, became social. Our global village.

And it won't necessarily be an "internet" and an "internet of things" but still, just, and only, the internet, at least I hope so, because the whole point of the internet - or at least, just one of the points of the internet is that things can link from one thing to another thing and that's why the superset - the internet of networks of things - will be the one that wins. Hopefully.

So I have some very rough mental models that I use, now I'm officially exploring the Internet of Things.

Here's the working definition I have in my notebook: We see the internet of things wherever a physical thing is connected by some kind of data carrying link to a computer capable of running software.

I'm casting a wide net -- we've built a lot of infrastructure (train platform signage, building facilities) that we don't call IOT but it is. Or it's close to being so. Why is this good?

So given my working definition, I need to refer to two types of connectivity:

I can think of lots of things that would benefit from connectivity without backhaul. I'd like to be able to orchestrate the behaviour of all the lightbulbs in my house, for example; remote control from the open internet is a bonus.

Then back to Dan's original point... and that's why the superset - the internet of networks of things - will be the one that wins. Hopefully.

Hopefully. Maybe. But where my mental model takes me is to draw analogies with dumb unconnected stuff... my home. And I like that there are doors, that close, and windows that are see-through but with curtains; I can leave the phone off the hook and pull the plug on the wi-fi. There are switch by walls where my hand finds them, and those hidden at the back of the cupboard by the stove. These aren't just security models -- they're ways of making sense of the stuff I have in my life.

Still I go back the connected lightbulb and it's eventual value. To discover the it might require building out the whole Internet of Things first... the World Wide Web was already 7 years old by the time Blogger.com launched and so discovered the real value of the medium.

And maybe that'll require the open internet and all that implies. I hope so too but I think we have to make that case from value, because it's not necessary.

Interconnected

A weblog by Matt Webb.

It's all confused and beautiful.

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You can get updates to this blog on Twitter: follow @intrcnnctd.

I'm @genmon on Twitter. Also find me on Instagram and LinkedIn.

19:30, Monday 26 Jan.

1.

Types of magician banned in ancient Rome, listed in the Codex Justinianus published in 534 AD.

A haruspex is one who prognosticates from sacrificed animals and their internal organs; a mathematicus, one who reads the course of the stars; a hariolus, a soothsayer, inhaling vapors, as at Delphi; augurs, who read the future by the flight and sound of birds; a vates, an inspired person - prophet; chaldeans and magus are general names for magicians; maleficus means an enchanter or poisoner.

(Source, book 9, section 18.)

Look, you know, consultants.

(In the context of Rome, magic is efficacious.)

Designers.

Account planning.

Cut open a goat and read the emails.

2.

New system for data visualisation of London by After the flood: the London Squared Map. Squares and a pretty river wiggle.

3.

Sitting and smiling.

4 hour meditation sessions, recorded with Google Hangouts. Sitting and smiling.

35 videos to date.

Unnerving.

2 hours and 36 mins into video #5, someone breaks into the house. Then, after presumably seeing me sitting still and smiling in front of a camera, lit from beneath by a florescent bulb, he promptly descends the stairs and exits the house.

4.

Three YouTube stars meet President Obama for a post-State of the Union interview: Holy Shit, I Interviewed the President, by Hank Green.

"News" released its antibodies immediately. @rupertmurdoch: POTUS hard to follow saying no 'available' time for Netanyahu and then hours today with weird YouTube personalities. Strange timing.

Green:

Walking around the White House, seeing the Press Briefing Room and all of the two-hundred-year-old chairs and decoy helicopters reminded me that the history of post-democratic power is really the history of legitimacy.

And:

There is nothing actually legitimate about Fox News (or MSNBC for that matter) and young people know this. They don't trust news organizations because news organizations have given them no reason to be trusting.

And:

Legacy media isn't mocking us because we aren't a legitimate source of information; they're mocking us because they're terrified.

And here's the fucking motherlode:

The source of our legitimacy is the very different from their coiffed, Armani institutions. It springs instead (and I'm aware that I'm abandoning any modicum of modesty here) from honesty. In new media this is often called "authenticity" because our culture is too jaded to use a big fat word like "honesty" without our gallbladders clogging up, but that's really what it is.

Glozell, Bethany and I don't sit in fancy news studios surrounded by fifty thousand dollar cameras and polished metal and glass backdrops with inlayed 90-inch LCD screens. People trust us because we've spent years developing a relationship with them. We have been scrutinized and found not evil. Our legitimacy comes from honesty, not from cultural signals or institutions.

We have been scrutinized.

Sharpest analysis I've read in forever re: What Is Going On.

The internet means we don't have to trust second-hand signals, and we choose not to because second-hand signals have been abused. In who we get our views from - and who we give our money to - we can scrutinize.

15:34, Saturday 24 Jan.

1.

Words in the 25 most common passwords of 2014:

2.

I can't remember when I first saw this, a segment from a BBC natural history document of a man hunting an antelope by endurance running.

It takes hours.

The hunter uses his hand to get into the mind of the antelope -- there's a moment where he has to think at it does, choose the same direction, pure animal empathy.

Yeah humans! I can't help it, every time I see this. Go us!

It's a bit of a weird reaction I know, because mostly my sense of "us" is mammals. When I think "we're all in it together," when I'm trying to figure out what's ok and not ok about sacrificing dogs in the pursuit of leaving this planet to live in space, my loyalties are mammals. And my sense of "people" goes wider still. Distinguishable matter, probably. Asteroid people. A very different mode of thinking and being, sure, but a type of personhood and rights unto themselves.

3.

I'm completely obsessed with this extended mix of Bojack's theme: great sounds. Deep dubstep bass, loooong sax, and some weird squelchy something or other. Can't stop listening.

Bojack Horseman on Netflix.

4.

A digital clock where all the components are visible, every resistor, capacitor and all the wiring unpacked from its silicon chips, and laid out.

21:37, Thursday 22 Jan.

Let's do coffee morning again! Next week.

Thursday 29th January, 9.30am for a couple of hours, at the Book Club (100 Leonard St).

It would be lovely to see you, come along! There's a vague "making things" skew, but honestly I've spent a lot of time chatting about dogs and music...

We had way too many dudes last time. So if you're Not A Dude or you bring a friend who is Not A Dude, I will be extra extra EXTRA pleased to see you. Please help me fix this.

Last week's coffee morning was bonkers... 15 people, 3 unreleased prototypes from hardware startups, an emergent theme about how to sell products. Other coffee mornings have been more low-key: Six of us talking nonsense and drinking too much caffeine. I don't really mind what happens, it's all good, maybe it'll just be me and my laptop next time :)

(What works for me)

But seeing as coffee morning is spreading to San Francisco I thought it might be worth writing down what works for me...

If I'm ever in any doubt, I go back and read what Russell did with his coffee mornings in 2007. He's who it all comes from.

For email updates, join the coffee morning announce list.

10:18, Tuesday 20 Jan.

1.

The decision to remove Grand Theft Auto 5 from the shelves of Target and K-Mart stores in Australia caused quite the reaction, especially in the American gaming press.

The move was discussed, argued over and written about, but the act itself took place in Australia, and reflects Australian culture and history.

Grand Theft Auto 5, Australian culture, and how the American press misses the point.

What comes across in this article - through a number of examples - is that, in Australia, debate is not polarised, but We're more likely to participate in public debates about [speech and art], more likely to feel heard and have more faith in judging it.

Public discussion of what's OK.

2.

A neat flow diagram of the various publicly funded research projects that fed into the iPhone.

3.

Gorgeous pictures of 3D fractals.

4.

Beautiful Instagrams through aeroplane cockpit windows, but... But taking photos, or using most any electronic device, while piloting a commercial aircraft is prohibited by American and European regulators.

And:

Some also appear to be flouting even stricter regulations for takeoff and landing, when not even idle conversation is allowed in the cockpit.

But my goodness the photos are beautiful.

That question of what's OK... how do we decide... when do individuals break the rules and when don't they... how do enough individuals break the rules and go "this is the sublime, this is what being human is about" and then as society we figure out that we choose the rules, and we have to find ways of making it safe to take photos from cockpit windows and share them?

Whatever, they're only Instagrams. But pretty ones.

How do we choose what's OK? How do we, as a society, choose what we want?

13:32, Sunday 18 Jan.

1.

I mentioned the women's movement classic The Tyranny of Structurelessness the other day, on the dangers of refusing to admit power... informal structures have no obligation to be responsible to the group at large. Their power was not given to them; it cannot be taken away. Their influence is not based on what they do for the group; therefore they cannot be directly influenced by the group.

Here's a critical response by Cathy Devine, The tyranny of tyranny, which raises the counter-risk of roles in organisations standing in the way individuality:

What we definitely don't need is more structures and rules, providing us with easy answers, pre-fab alternatives and no room in which to create our own way of life.

And,

we are reacting against bureaucracy because it deprives us of control, like the rest of this society; and instead of recognising the folly of our ways by returning to the structured fold, we who are rebelling against bureaucracy should be creating an alternative to bureaucratic organisation. ... it is more than a reaction; the small group is a solution.

Touches on a few topics I'm super curious about right now... small groups, informality, a trust in the irreducible human element.

2.

Genevieve Bell and Paul Dourish's 2006 paper Yesterday's tomorrows: notes on ubiquitous computing's dominant vision which makes the compelling argument that the habit of researching ubiquitous computing (now called Internet of Things) as something science-fictional or in the future prevents us from applying those learnings to the ubiquitous computing already here today.

the centrality of ubiquitous computing's "proximate future" continually places its achievements out of reach, while simultaneously blinding us to current practice. By focusing on the future just around the corner, ubiquitous computing renders contemporary practice (at outside of research sites and "living labs"), by definition, irrelevant or at the very least already outmoded. Arguably, though, ubiquitous computing is already here; it simply has not taken the form that we originally envisaged and continue to conjure in our visions of tomorrow.

I worry about this with the Internet of Things. There's a lot of research and good thinking... a ton of understanding. But without a deliberate effort to draw that research into the present, will present-day IOT - like connected products in Kickstarter and city-wide transit swipe cards - be able to learn?

And what I really mean is, given research and products come from groups of individuals, do these people hang out and have a common language?

3.

Pulp's Big Moment, the New Yorker on the origin of mass-market paperbacks in the 1930s... The key to Lane's and de Graff's innovation was not the format. It was the method of distribution.

Train stations! Wire racks! Putting books where books weren't usually sold!

Instead of relying on book wholesalers ... de Graff worked through magazine distributors. They handled paperbacks the same way they handled magazines: every so often, they emptied the racks and installed a fresh supply.

Plus the usual high-brow/low-brow scuffle.

Speaking of which, readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds. Interesting if true, but I'm suspicious of high-brow snobbery.

4.

The New York Times on a series of 36 questions that makes any couple fall in love (you're also required to do 4 minutes of silent continuous eye contact).

From before: the similarities between dating and variable-interval operant conditioning.

And OF COURSE somebody on Hacker News went and turned the 36 questions into a website... Want to fall in love? Play The Love Game (TM).

Hacking intimacy.

Is there a serious difference between this and Jeff Bezos's acclaimed method to introduce "Service-Oriented Architecture" at Amazon by imposing the two-pizza rule? any team should be small enough that it could be fed with two pizzas.

08:24, Friday 16 Jan.

1.

List of company name etymologies, Wikipedia.

Some Korean companies:

Good names. Great universe.

2.

Business Cat has some coffee.

3.

When you press the Help button on the ticket machine at the subway in Japan, a man climbs out of a hidden little door.

4.

24 pieces of life advice from Werner Herzog.

Some faves:

  1. Send out all your dogs and one might return with prey.

  2. Learn to read the inner essence of a landscape.

  3. Take revenge if need be.

  4. Get used to the bear behind you.

18:10, Thursday 15 Jan.

Coffee morning 4 was super fun! Great chat and thank you for coming, Tom, James, Martin, Tom, Matthew (who took a photo), Dev, James, Daniel, Basil, Ben, Chris, Iskander, another Tom, and Jess!

Three people showed prototypes from their hardware startups. So, so good. Two people had successful Kickstarter campaigns under their belts. There was talk of new year's resolutions and books, and Dev described his brand of technology as the art of turning things off and on... but, you know, in an experience sort of way. And I got to play with some Duplo because Jess brought her infant. Or someone's infant, I didn't think to ask.

But before I get to any of that:

Holy shit, TOO MANY DUDES.

This is a real problem. I know this is only chat and coffee, but what I'm attempting to foster here is a sparky street corner where serendipity occurs. With no structure! Informality! And it's working well. But when it's mostly men it's just weird.

So I had a chat with Basil and I had a chat with Jess, and we've got a couple of ideas about how to bring this back into alignment with the regular world -- and there's no excuse, especially because hardware startups so often have women founders. If I don't fix this soon, it'll get entrenched. So more ideas welcome.

Selling to people who aren't your mates

When I was a kid, I had an LP -- a long-playing vinyl record, which is kind of a large black CD where the sound is actually sculpted into the surface of the plastic -- and I guess I should also say that a CD is a Compact Disk, at which point you say: Compact compared to what? It stores a hundredth of what you get on an iPod and you can't even plug your headphones in.

An iPod, by the way, used to be a physical thing. Now it's an app on your phone.

I had an LP.

On the LP was a novelty song by Charlie Drake called My Boomerang Won't Come Back, and I won't pretend it was anything other than shamefully racist. Sayeth Wikipedia, the track is not exactly a paragon of political correctness, even by 1961 standards. In the song, an Aboriginal meeting is described as a 'pow-wow', something more appropriate for Native Americans, while their chanting sounds more African than Aboriginal.

Here's the song on Youtube. Listen at your own risk.

However.

The punchline of the song is where the boy who's boomerang won't come back (who has practiced till I was black in the face/ I'm a big disgrace to the Aborigine race) meets a witch doctor (I know, I know...) who tells him:

if you want your boomerang to come back, well, first you've got to throw it.

Which is true. And also hands-down the best sales advice I've ever encountered.

THE RELEVANCE OF THIS:

One of the most common challenges I see in hardware startups is that, after the initial burst of selling, product sales stall.

There were two conversations I had this morning that made me think of this. There's a startup at Techstars who is thinking about the same thing; I've had similar conversations with a couple of other hardware startups thinking their way through this. I've experienced this myself, and the story goes as follows:

You're a designer, or a creative technologist, or whatever. You're good at networking so you know how to reach many thousands or millions of people.. You're good at pitching your idea, well practiced, so you know how to craft a story. You launch your product; it sells.

And sales are decent. When you have PR.

But hardware ain't websites and ain't apps. You don't get an email address with hardware. You can't encourage your users to spam their Facebook friends, like an app can. Apps have got virality: Monkey see app, monkey download app from the App Store right there and then. Hardware got no virality. Users don't get more users.

So sales don't hockey-stick.

Now what you do is what everyone does when they experience a challenge, which is you repeat what made you successful in the first place. You do what you're really good at. You iterate the design, add features, you do better PR, you do a bunch of talks and you craft better stories.

But this is a build it and they will come approach. It probably doesn't work.

Your local social network is now saturated. You need to reach beyond your mates - and your mates of mates - and sell in a different way. But how?

You gotta advertise.

At Techstars, I've been privileged to work with people who really know their shit about digital marketing. They understand e-commerce inside-down and upside-out.

Here's a simple thing they talk about: Putting a budget against, say, Facebook ads. Try a bunch of stuff, see what works. Whatever profit you make from that, recycle it: buy more ads! If you're receiving money from new sales on a weekly basis, you get to recycle money every week. If you get money daily, you recycle daily and grow faster!

As you get better at selling, you recycle the cash and your budget grows and grows... but it's free money! It's still your original budget!

I was talking to Dev about this - at the coffee morning - and he went through the same thing for his Kickstarter campaign. He said that digital marketing was clear and obvious... once it had been framed for him as an engineering challenge with end goals and a toolset. What channels generate sales? What phrases work? Measure it all.

Anyway, I know this is obvious, but it's all about reaching and selling to the people we don't already know, in a repeatable, testable, iterated-and-improvable way. And I only say it because I've had this conversation a dozen times in the last month, and as tech folks and designers (as opposed to biz and marketing people) it appears to be something that we don't notice, or don't get to, or find excuses to not do because "the product isn't ready" or something. Holy shit I've heard a lot of excuses.

This sales attitude has got to be in the team DNA early on, or it'll feel alien when it - inevitably - gets introduced later. What the product is and how the product is understood AND SOLD has to evolve hand-in-hand.

If you want your boomerang to come back, first you've gotta throw it.

Other reason I bang on about this: Ignoring sales is a personal pitfall, and I want to make sure that, for my next venture, I think about sales as early as possible. Ultimately it'll make for a better product.

Next coffee morning

Coffee morning 5 will be January 29th, same bat-time (9.30am), same bat-channel (Old St). For reminders, join the mailing list.

Folks who came today: Thank you for coming! If you want me to connect you with anyone you chatted to, drop me a mail -- I collected email addresses. I'd love to hear about the conversations you had, let me know what sparked your imagination!

10:48, Tuesday 13 Jan.

1.

What acronym do we give the Internet of Things? John Gruber:

"IoT" is a terrible acronym, especially in a world where Helvetica and Helvetica-like sans serifs are so popular. Capping the "o" too would help a little -- it would make it much more clear that it's spelling EYE-oh-TEE, not ell-oh-TEE.

Ok, IOT it is.

I wrote a post back in 2013 about how any of Amazon, Apple, and Google could become the default platform for IOT.

Since then...

Amazon have launched new Amazon Web Services tech focused on supporting sensors and web-connected devices.

Google acquired the home gadgets company Nest, back in January 2014. Since then they've been expanding the platform for developers, and there are now many home products that work with Nest. My feeling is that, for IOT, this is the best way to build a platform: Start with a killer product, then include partners, then finally move to 3rd party developers.

And Apple released Homekit, some standard tech for wireless chips that makes 3rd party products work better with iPhones. For instance, every Homekit product has to support identification: Users need ways to identify the accessory they are adjusting, so make sure to provide quick access to a control that physically identifies the accessory. In the case of a light bulb, for example, you might let users flash the bulb using your app to confirm its identity in the home.

Most interesting? Apple has added features to the Apple TV box so that it enables Homekit products being controlled from outside the home: So, while commands like 'Siri, turn off the lights in the living room' will always work while connected to your home Wi-Fi network, they won't from the airport unless you have an Apple TV.

Curious. Sounds like Apple is building the right thing.

2.

Half of the Internet of Things is the things.

But making hardware is hard. Or rather... it requires a process which isn't familiar to most of the startups who turn their attention to hardware, and investors aren't familiar with how to fund hardware startups.

So specialised startup incubators are emerging.

The Economist has a special report. Hacking Shenzhen, Why southern China is the best place in the world for a hardware innovator to be.

Focuses on Haxlr8r.

3.

Two hardware startups I've run across recently...

Re-Timer, a wearable headset that uses bright lights to tinker with your circadian rhythms -- and fix jet lag.

And Kisha, the umbrella you'll never lose. It's a weather forecast app, plus an alert that goes off if you leave your umbrella outside your "safe" places.

4.

From IBM, this Executive Report, Device democracy: Saving the future of the Internet of Things (via @bruces).

Liquifying the physical world.

Great summary of the opportunities and challenges in scaling IOT.

Challenges identified:

From experience, these are exactly the challenges businesses face as they have to adapt to connected products.

I'm impressed with what IBM are up to at the moment. Their collaboration with Apple has produced some solid business apps, and their new design language is great.

Also: The UK government's approach to the Internet of Things is laid out in the Blackett review, a paper by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser on what the IOT opportunities are and how the government can help.

10:29, Friday 9 Jan.

Let's have another coffee morning! First one of 2015.

Thursday 15th January, 9.30am for a couple of hours, at the Book Club in Old St.

Do come, it would be lovely to see you!

Here's what what happened at the last coffee morning. tl;dr we talked about the manufacturers of web-connected products speaking to consumers for the very first time, and sexy turducken. Also there were crackers.

And here's what coffee morning is all about... a mini, informal street corner to chat about nonsense and hardware. But mainly to drink coffee and hang out.

Oh and -- if you want reminders by email, there's now a coffee morning announce list. Subscribe here.

See you next Thurs!

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